Whitewater Academy

Learn Whitewater Rafting Skills on the Colorado River

Learning to Guide Whitewater Rafts: Build Competence and Confidence

Whitewater Academy is an intensive four-day training for teens entering 10th – 12th grades wanting to learn whitewater skills. We are looking for exceptional teens who are ready to challenge themselves by stepping out of their comfort zones. Living on the river provides a unique experience to face our fears daily, accepting the vulnerability of figuring out how to captain a 3,000-pound boat. The community on the river functions through teamwork. Participants develop leadership skills when they support each other, manage their personal protective equipment, or cook a delicious meal for their team. The skills learned on the river are transferable and will lead to success with family, school, and work.

CFI instructors, all certified whitewater guides, will coach students to row or paddle a raft, practice river reading skills, and navigate whitewater. The river curriculum includes leadership, basic river rescue, risk management, and decision making. The course also focuses on minimum impact techniques, ethics for river travel, and ecology of the desert region.

We launch from Loma Boat Launch on the Colorado River. Each day, participants learn and participate in rigging the boats, paddling downstream, setting up camps, and preparing meals on the river. Our expedition begins on the calm waters of Ruby and Horsethief Canyons, offering participants a chance to hone their skills on a forgiving stretch of river. Towering red rock walls and numerous side canyons offer opportunities for exploration. Day three, our team tackles the challenge of Westwater Canyon, with rapids up to class IV. After our last night in the field, we paddle out to Cisco as the red walls subside.

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CFI Staff and Safety

Canyonlands Field Institute is permitted and licensed to operate by federal and state agencies. CFI staff have been trained in the natural and cultural history of the Colorado Plateau, and have earned Utah guide licenses. Additionally, instructors are certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR.


We offer additional CFI Scholarships that can be emailed to us or dropped off at our office.


  • Where: Ruby-Horsethief and Westwater Canyons
  • Group Size: Minimum 10 Maximum 12
  • Age Group: Entering 10th - 12th grades
  • Deadline for Signup: Two weeks prior to start
  • Cost per Person: $590 per youth ($490 for youth enrolled in Grand County School District) +$20 BLM Fee
  • Notes:
    • Rapid Difficulty: I-IV
    • Trip includes: Transportation from Moab, meals, all river equipment, instruction and hiking, games, and nature activities.
    • Read our Cancellation Policy
    • Additional scholarship assistance is available for qualifying families, please fill out the form linked below